International partners join ASU on SunShot-funded cell efficiency endeavor

The U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, which announced $60 million in awards for solar research and development projects last week, is going a long way in strengthening overseas partnerships.

Arizona State University (ASU) landed $3.5 million for its efforts to create next-generation silicon solar cells with targeted efficiencies of 29%. It’s partnering on the research with the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology as well as Caltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), all of whom were listed as collaborators on the grant.

The UNSW solar photovoltaic research group set a world record for conversion efficiency for silicon cells of 25% in 2008 with its PERL cell.

"These are the some of the most cutting-edge solar cell and physics groups in the United States and Europe and we’re delighted to be working with them," said Richard Corkish, head of the UNSW School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering.

"We will be sharing physical resources and ideas, and I’m hoping we can collectively come up with something much bigger than each of our research groups could achieve on our own," he added.

The project will focus on demonstrating new device structures for ultra-thin silicon solar cells that can approach the theoretical limit for solar power conversion with silicon cells.

ASU’s project leader, Stuart Bowden, was previously a PhD student UNSW in Sydney and played a key role in developing the university’s solar education and research programs, according to UNSW. Another former UNSW academic at ASU, Christiana Honsberg, is a project investigator.

UNSW’s involvement will be led by Anita Ho-Baillie, and will be coordinated through the Australia-U.S. Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics (AUSIAP), which is led by UNSW professor Martin Green.

The Institute includes UNSW, the Australian National University, the University of Queensland, the University of Melbourne, Monash University, which is also located in Melbourne, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). It was established with AUD$33 million from the Commonwealth through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The U.S. government’s SunShot Initiative aims to make solar PV energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by 2020.